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Friday, November 16, 2012

The elevator pitch, version 2.0

The elevator pitch is meant to be a 30 sec message that tells who you are, right? The problem is that you tend to focus such messages in facts: I'm a project manager, a math graduate, and so on. Unless the person listening to such a speech has some sort of connection to these (he's also a project manager or maybe his son's major is also math), the message will soon me completely forgotten. So how can you turn this around and make your message stick?

The beginning

When I first started going to Project Management congresses, I was kind of upset about the networking: why were people insisting so much on the topic? The fact is that I'm a quiet kind of person and I enjoy being alone. Having someone introducing themselves all the time was really awkward to me. Nevertheless, on the first evening of my first congress, I went to dinner with these fabulous Italian guys where there was a fabulous guy that was fabulous also in this networking business. Funny enough, his temper is much like mine - and that didn't make him an harm in networking.
In short, here's what I learned from him and is now incorporated in my elevator pitch (version 2.0):
  1. Focus on stories instead of facts
  2. But don't tell the whole story
  3. Make it intriguing
  4. Think marketing, not sales
  5. Check where can you help
  6. And what can you learn

Focus on stories

People remember stories more easily than facts. "There was this guy in my class when i still was a math undergraduate that would always wear Hawaiian shirts that reminds me of you". This is more easily remembered than the fact you're a math graduate.
But most of all, don't quote your resume: "I'm a PMP, a math graduate, I work as a consultant for a Project Management consulting company, I'm an active volunteer for several different organizations and I play drums for a Blues band". Now that you've just read this, try to remember it tomorrow - but go on reading, it's not fair if you cheat!

But don't tell the whole story

You don't need to be exhaustive - in fact you don't want to be exhaustive. Just pick the few points that make your core. If there's an interest or a something that connects you to the other person you'll know it by the reaction you'll get on the other side. And if you don't get a reaction, you can always say "It was very nice to meet you" and keep on going.

Make it intriguing

Think about ways to say what you want in a way that gets people curious, or better yet, eager to listen to the rest: "I just quit a 10 million project to dedicate all my heart and soul to my next project" Leave your listener intrigued enough to block the elevator door and ask "So what is it that you're doing now?"

Think marketing, not sales

Sales are necessary, but not for networking. You're still way before selling and selling is not the purpose. What you need is marketing - and marketing is making sure your audience knows what your product is (and in this networking business, you are your product even if you're in fact selling something). This implies knowing who your audience is in the first place and then know exactly what you are. Please don't confuse marketing (or sales) with pretending you're so much better than everyone else. And be true. And me yourself. There's nothing more disappointing than finding out that a person who said that did this and that in fact lied.

Check where can you help

If someone gives you a hand that really helps get whatever you need you'll be more willing to help out that person later than someone who never did nothing for you. And the best part of it is that many times one can lend a hand without any cost at all. I once met this guy that just moved to Dubai and was really lost: he didn't know anyone there, he started on a new company where he didn't know anyone, the culture was different and even the weather was giving him a hard time. The first thing I did was to introduce him to a few guys I knew in Dubai. And they connected somehow and the next day when I met him again he was so grateful that he just kept saying "Thank you so much, if there's anything I can do for you just let me know". It cost me nothing, it was nice of me and I was useful to someone. The net result was very positive!

And what can you learn

My top story regarding learning in networking was this time I met this world class guru on his field. He was kind of arrogant but he really knew about his business. When I told him that I worked for a company that did the procurement for a group of companies but we didn't actually made the purchases than he was really interested. So much so that he made me explain in some detail why we did it that way, how we made it work, how we kept things under control and so on. I was really surprised at first (this guy was really a bit arrogant and I didn't imagine him so interested in someone else) but afterwards it struck me: he went into learning mode! He saw something different to what he was used to and an opportunity to learn something.
And the best about this is simple arithmetic  if you have something you can teach and if you learn something from each person that you teach you get a huuuuge profit!

The outcome

If you do this well enough in a systematic way you'll end up with a range of contacts - which by itself is nothing good or bad - from people that you really have connected to. And the difference between this and just collecting business cards is enormous!

Image from http://www.alanturing.net

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